Outspoken CEO leaves SASSA

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Thokozani Magwaza has been relieved of his duties as SASSA CEO.
Thokozani Magwaza has been relieved of his duties as SASSA CEO.

The services of Thokozani Magwaza as CEO of the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) have been terminated after less than a year in the position.

A statement from the Department of Social Development yesterday announced Magwaza's resignation and says a "mutual agreement" was reached between minister Bathabile Dlamini and the SASSA CEO to terminate his contract.

No further reasons were given for Magwaza's sudden departure.

Media reports have cited a breakdown in the working relationship between Magwaza and Dlamini as the reason for his resignation.

The SASSA CEO's resignation comes hot on the heels of his decision to cancel the contract of work-streams appointed by Dlamini. The advisory groups appointed to determine how SASSA can take over payments reportedly racked up costs of more than R40 million over the last two years.

As the social grants debacle unfolded, Magwaza was vocal about his displeasure over how Dlamini handled the payments crisis. Legal documents submitted to the Constitutional Court revealed the finger-pointing match between the two parties over who should be held responsible.

Magwaza's insistence that the South African Post Office take over payment of social grants when the current contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) expires next March is also said to have contributed to strained relations with the minister.

The decision to terminate the CEO's services was taken after a consultative process led by head of legal services advocate Nkosinathi Dladla, in terms of the provisions of Magwaza's contract of employment, states the department.

The department thanked Magwaza and wished him well in his future endeavours.

Public outrage

Magwaza's departure has been labelled by the Democratic Alliance (DA) as "another damning indication of the toxic influence Dlamini has on SASSA and the department".

The DA says Magwaza is now the second senior official, after former director-general Zane Dangor, to be coerced into resigning.

"The DA is gravely concerned about Magwaza's departure as he has played an important role in finding an alternative service provider in line with the Constitutional Court deadline of 31 March 2018.

"The relationship between Dlamini and Magwaza was severely strained by Dlamini's insistence [on] establishing the irregular work-streams and ensuring the continuation of the lucrative CPS contract.

"The DA will now write to the minister to demand she provides the reasons as to why Magwaza resigned."

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has expressed sadness and concern at Magwaza's departure.

"We read into this development that he was pushed out after his work environment was made unbearable with death threats, the tension with minister Bathabile Dlamini, Magwaza's closure of the minister's lucrative work-streams and his attempts to get the post office to take over the social grants delivery," says Dominique Msibi, Outa portfolio director.

"Once again, as in many state entities, a hard-working, ethical person has been removed. We trust his good work will not be undone and that his replacement will work equally hard to address the maladministration and corruption within the social grants system."

Human rights group Black Sash says Magwaza's untimely exit follows a worrying trend of senior government officials being intimidated in the course of performing their work.

It points out Dangor suffered the same fate, with death threats as well as violence prior to and following his resignation earlier this year.

"Of particular concern is whether SASSA will lawfully procure services timeously to ensure the proper functioning and integrity of the agency's national payment system, in accordance with its first report to the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), with the view that SASSA takes over its full mandate.

"South Africans and grant beneficiaries in particular should not have to experience yet another extension of the invalid SASSA CPS contract, as was the case in March this year."

Furthermore, the human rights group hopes Magwaza's exit from SASSA will not jeopardise the outstanding ConCourt matter on whether Dlamini should be held liable for legal costs, as well as the investigation into the parallel work-streams.

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